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<  General Chatting  ~  Some Words about "Proper" Compacts

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 9:11 pm
User avatarItsukiPosts: 4790Location: TeanJoined: Sat Jun 05, 2004 4:00 am
... or "I can't really get my head around and decided to do my own thing"...

Lately, what with my own deep investigations into the Ricoh GRD vs. Ricoh GRD II debate and an e-mail from J asking for my opinion on some compact digital cameras I've ended up noseying around the "serious compact" arena quite a lot, frequenting some forums, sniffing out reviews, trawling through a few blogs, that sort of thing. Though I'm sure it won't be an exhaustive or even completely unbiased look at the various "serious compact" contenders on offer - there are probably lots of derivatives with the same lenses/sensors/etc - I thought I'd share my findings... I'll probably stick it on the blog at some point for posterity, but for now, here are...

The Serious Compacts of the Moment... according to Dawson...


Ricoh GRD

Of course it would come first; I own one!
  • Excellent B&W camera; film-like noise (with little NR), very good B&W JPEG output
  • 28mm fixed focal length (but with very HQ 21mm & 40mm teleconverters available)
  • Professional, configurable menus unlike any other compact; phenomenally good IMO
  • Beautifully built; magnesium alloy body, fantastic lens, excellent koala-tea of accessories
  • Painfully slow write times for RAW (between 8-15 seconds depending on the card!)
  • No buffer for RAW or JPEG so shot to shot time is slow
  • Old (released in '05) but still available new & koala-tea means second hand cameras are safe
Price: £260 new (Calument eBay), £150+ used (eBay)
Images: DPReview GRD Gallery


Ricoh GRD II

The sequel to the GRD; body, lens, fixed 28mm (with teleconverters) all remain as before...
  • Builds on the GRDs reputation, adds extra features such as square format shooting
  • Hugely improved RAW write times PLUS buffer for quicker shooting
  • Higher megapixel count (10 up from 8) means more aggressive NR in JPEG: loses out-of-camera B&W possibilities
  • Now-useable RAW mode means cleaner NR in RAW = GRDII is great with colour
  • Cleaner NR in RAW means B&W still possible, but GRDIIs RAW B&W still inferior to GRDs JPEG
Price: £331 new (Clifton Cameras)
Images: B&W + Colour, getDPI forums

** The Ricoh GR-Diary is an excellent resource for all things GRD/GRDII and even GX200 I believe... **


Ricoh GX200 ([I]shown here with optional EVF[/I])

A "softer" GRD II if you will; gets over some of the "limitations" of the GRD series...
  • 12 megapixel sensor (Noise becomes an issue at high ISOs with so many pixels crammed into the sensor)
  • 24mm-72mm lens with stepped zoom for "rounded" focal lengths, impressive [I]f[/I] 2.4 at 24mm, drops to [I]f[/I] 4.4 at 72mm
  • All round koala-tea on par with GRD/GRDII, though lens is slightly softer (but when the GRD lens is so sharp...)
  • Same excellent Ricoh UI, has GRDII option for square format photography
  • Great accessory range including wide-angle (0.79x, down to 18mm!)and telephoto (1.88x, up to 135mm) adaptor & even EVF!
Price: £280 (without EVF kit), Amazon
Images: GX100 & GX200 images, getDPI forums, Wouter Photoblog, GX200 user, gets a lot out of the camera!


Panasonic DMC LX3

A Leica DLux 4 by any other name would still smell as sweet... It's predecessor, the LX2 (DLux 3) was a fine camera let down by painfully intrusive NR.
  • [I]Image stabilised[/I] 24-60mm lens which manages [I]f[/I] 2 to [I]f[/I] 2.8 from wide to tele - fast!
  • NR reigned in from LX2 and option of even less NR with RAW
  • Combination of better sensor, less NR and faster lens = decent in low light/high ISO
  • Option of 16:9, 4:3 and 3:2 formats for shooting
  • 720p @ 24fps movie mode (up to 2GB, about 10 mins)
  • Useful manual controls packaged in an awkward interface
  • NR still a bit too aggressive, smudges details
  • In-camera software controlled barrel distortion @ 24mm has caused controversy/Not supported in Adobe CR yet
Price: £309,
Images: DPReview LX3 gallery


Sigma DP1

Before we get to the list, two very important words: Foveon sensor.

  • (As above) Huge Foveon X3 sensor, almost the size of APS-C DSLRs
  • Sensor captures differently; is 4.8MP x 3 rather than R+G+B=4.8MP
  • Sharp - but relatively slow - fixed 28mm [I]f[/I] 4
  • Full manual controls, but minimal external controls and painfully elongated menu structure
  • Slow AF, RAW write times, shutter lag; very sluggish camera overall
  • Battery life not great, only up to ISO 800, can't shoot RAW + JPEG

Basically, this camera is flawed genius. It can be an utter bitch to use, but then you can snap photos like this with no post processing whatsoever:


Phenomenal, but a camera for the "early adopters" with money to spare. DP2 (40mm [I]f[/I] 2.8) already in development...

Price: £445, Pixmania
Images: DPReview Sigma DP1 gallery

[I]I have a few more to add soon, but they need a little more research first, and some might not agree with the "compact" moniker...[/I]

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 2:29 am
User avatarBiggest Nappy EvaPosts: 6922Joined: Mon May 31, 2004 4:00 am
Sorry, that last shot is no post processing?

That camera made me sex-wee.

- Komrad Jimski
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 12:04 pm
User avatarItsukiPosts: 4790Location: TeanJoined: Sat Jun 05, 2004 4:00 am
No post-processing. This is the thing with the DP1; it's flawed, but some of the photos it takes are like a slap round the face...

Again, no PP:


... and although not a "pretty" photo, a good example of the latitude in this camera from a RAW shot... ... en_raw.jpg

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 2:54 pm
User avatarPosts: 1558Joined: Thu May 19, 2005 4:00 am
Awesome stuff daws, no G10 in that list ?

Yeah the DP1 is awesome with huge problems, namely its so so slow, the DP2 is a serious possiblity for me, the wider lens, and new image processor is ment to speed it up something silly, in order of preference id go for:

LX3 - DP2 (equally good for different reasons)
the rest

The best cam for 'serious social stuff' is the LX3, its very very slim for what it can do, and does hd movies, the DP2 will be great for everything else, but that and the G10 are pushing the word 'compact' there kinda bulky

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:57 am
User avatarCridaperPosts: 13970Location: WolverhamptonJoined: Mon May 31, 2004 4:00 am
Having been giving the G9 some hammer I have some quite strong views on what I would idealy like from a serious compact.

What I want most from a compact is to stop trying to be a DSLR alternative and start being an DSLR addition. There are times when a DSLR just isn't appropriate, perhaps for physical reasons but also for intrusion reasons too.

I want something quick and dirty, not a magic box of tricks which wants to sing to me when I turn it on and try to be the answer to all photographic questions.

This is a breakdown of my ulitmate compact.

1) Fast short focal length lens like 28-55mm which protrudes from the camera body (I.e does not retract in when off) with manual zoom barrel and a depth of a few centimeters. (like the LX3) Then option to slot over conversion lenses with two standard options of 18-50mm and 50-150mm. These would of course bulk the camera out when fitted but would be fast and open up a market of third party conversion lenses.

2) Low megapixel high ISO low noise sensor. We know it could be done a long time ago, give me 8mp and very low noise at ISO800 and 1600 and acceptable noise at 3600. At this size write times for RAW files should be instant and high ISO capability useful in environments I'm likely to be using a compact in.

3) Give me a proper view finder and a smaller chimping screen. Not a hole through the camera with some perspex at each end and a huge viewing screen which goes off for five secs when I press the shutter.

4) No built in flash, just a hot shoe.

5) No fancy modes.

6) Auto ISO that focuses on fastest shutter speed when in auto or apature prioirity mode. None of this chickening out at ISO800 and giving me 1/40 sec for fear of a bit of noise, yeah because a crap load of motion blur is so much more useful to me.

7) Make it compact, not tiny. If I want an ultrasmall compact I can go buy one. Give me something that will fit in my inside jacket or shorts pocket because that's where I like to keep it.

8) Let me interact, none of this disjointed driving everything off feelingless buttons on the back mentality. Give me a clunky shutter button that feels right when I push it, a lens I can grab with one hand and move back and forth. Make it feel like a camera and not a textured box with poncuter on one side and a pokey lense on the other.

Cookies & Java
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 1:31 pm
User avatarPosts: 1558Joined: Thu May 19, 2005 4:00 am
Amen to that, you'll be wanting a fujifilm F31Fd then with RAW mode ability

6mp is ideal for a such a list MR MWF (mr mwoeerff if said out loud), and I agree with all points really, id personally keep a small flash though, just for some fill light as and when needed, however they need to work on how much powah on boards give out, usually they tend to crispy fry people in the picture and white it out, a nice suttle amount of powah is what would be ideal, agreed though it would be hugely difficult to balance all the usual with the flash in auto mode for any given situation, is prob why they play safe with the settings and give the flash abit more oomph

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 1:35 pm
User avatarCridaperPosts: 13970Location: WolverhamptonJoined: Mon May 31, 2004 4:00 am
I can see the use in a small flash but I'd rather it was something you'd clip on, it just concerns me how much room it can take up in physical size. It would be cool to have a little strobe included which you could stick on the shot shoe, especially if you could flip a diffuser up or bounce of off the cieling.

Cookies & Java
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 2:02 pm
User avatarItsukiPosts: 4790Location: TeanJoined: Sat Jun 05, 2004 4:00 am
Olympus had it spot on with the XA series of P&S I think... no flash, but if you want one you can have one which has almost no impact on the camera's usability at all... just stick it on the end! Sounds simple, but a genius idea for the form factor and has extra benefits like room for it's own powah source and moving the flash head away from the lens centre to reduce red eye... Perfect!


I do agree with a lot of your ideas Chris... I think we need to move into the digital age of Olympus XAs, of the digital equivalent to the rangefinder, that's where it was all about control but about usability and playing to the strengths of the type of camera...

Personally I'm very excited about the advent of Micro 4/3rds, or more accurately, Olympus throwing this up as an example of what they plan to do with M4/3...


I mean the list of brilliant Olympus film compacts is pretty long; the XA range, the Pen range, the 35RC, the ubiquitous Trip... they do it SO well, if they really get into micro 4/3rds it could be amazing, especially if compacts with swappable lenses happen... pancakes and tiny zooms, all made my Olympus with it's awesome history of Zuiko lenses... *gets far too excited*

I will do the rest of this CotM at some point... I think Chris needs to write a little review of the G9 for me in the same style though :D

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